Why is Archery Separated By Gender? And Does It Really Matter?

At first glance, archery should be a unisex sport. It seems to depend more on accuracy and skill than brute strength. However, many competitions separate participants based on whether they are male or female. So, why is this sport still separated by gender?

Males will have a biological advantage in archery. They tend to have more upper body strength, allowing them to put more force behind the arrow. This increases accuracy by limiting wind resistance. This disparity can be seen by comparing world record results.

Both males and females will be able to achieve success within archery. But to create a fair playing field in competitions, they will need to be separated. Keep reading to learn more about this practice and why it is needed.

Woman and man archer

Why men have an advantage in archery

One of the biggest reasons why the genders need to compete separately is because men have a biological advantage. Archery is a sport that relies heavily on upper body strength. You will need to be able to pull back the string. The more power you can put behind the arrow, the further it will travel. It will also give the arrow a slightly flatter trajectory.

According to researchers, it’s estimated that men, on average, have 75 percent more upper body strength than women. Though compound bows can help compensate for this; they require less force to pull back on the string.

There are a few events where strength is fundamental. For example, you will find it essential when you are competing at longer distances at outdoor events. With more power behind the arrow, it is less likely that it will get blown off course.

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This is part of the reason why modern events won’t include the 90m. The men will have enough power to shoot at these distances. But women will often struggle.

Which gender is better at accuracy?

While the men might be able to put more force behind their shots, that doesn’t necessarily give them an edge. This is only part of the competition. You’ll also need to be successful at aiming at your target.

In this area, men will also have an advantage. They tend to perform better on spatial awareness tasks. These are activities that will require the mental manipulation of objects, like creating a 3D image. It’s believed that this is partly linked to a difference in the size of the parietal lobe.

You might find it interesting to read if archery requires a lot of strength.

World records by gender

One of the best ways to get an understanding of how sex can influence performance in archery is by looking at the records, separated by gender. For example, we can look at the 50m barebow. This style of archery doesn’t allow the use of stabilizers or sights, which can help aim. The world record holders in the male category are:

  • John Demmer III in the 50m round with a score of 672 out of 720
  • John Demmer III in the double 50m round with a score of 1328 out of 1440

This can be compared with the female version, with the world records as follows:

  • Cinzia Noziglia in the 50m round with a score of 637 out of 720
  • Cinzia Noziglia in the double 50m round with a score of 1271 out of 1440
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This is a pattern that is frequently repeated throughout the archery world. For example, let’s look at one of the most popular categories, recurve shooting. Here are the men’s world records:

  • Baek Jong Min in the combined rounds with a score of 346 out of 360
  • Chang Yong-ho in the 18 arrow match with a score of 177 out of 180

Things are tighter between the genders in this category, but the trend remains the same. Here are the female world records:

  • Choi Nam Ok, in the combined rounds, got a total of 345 out of 360
  • Kim Won Jeong in the 18 arrow match with a score of 175 out of 180

Mixed gender events

While there are some differences between the genders, that doesn’t mean that they can’t compete together. In recent years, there has been a rise in the number of mixed events, and these have been added to the Olympics.

But this type of event can often be misconceived. It does not feature males competing against females. Instead, each team will comprise one man and one woman. During the match, the men will shoot against each other, with the females doing the same. The scores will then be added together to see who won the match.

It should be noted that this isn’t unusual. In the Olympics, there is only one sport when men and women compete against each other as equals. This is in the equestrian division, where sex plays no distinguishable role.

Does equipment matter in archery?

As we mentioned, a key reason why men tend to perform better at archery is because of the draw strength they have. A faster arrow means that it will spend less time in the air. It also reduces the chances that it will be blown off-target.

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And speaking of draw strength – does the draw length matter?

Today, though, there are compound bows. These will use a pulley system. You don’t need as much strength to get a high draw weight. In theory, this should be a better test of the archer’s accuracy.

Despite this, when put side by side, men still have a slight advantage. This can be evidenced by looking at the world records:

When competing, there is a limit to the amount that you can modify your equipment. Often, the draw weight of the bow will be limited. This will provide a fair competition, stopping one athlete from dominating with substantially higher draw weight.

Final thoughts

It’s true that men will have a biological advantage in the world of archery. This is why competitions are separated based on sex. But it isn’t the whole story. The amount of time you spend on the range, rather than your gender, remains the best way of determining how much success you will experience. An amateur male still has a lousy chance competing against an Olympic female.

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